‘Endless torrent’ of announcements on UK railways to be sharply reduced

Train announcements are to be given a formal hearing by government officials so that those deemed “repetitive and unnecessary” can be axed.

Grant Shapps, the transport secretary, has commissioned a cross-industry review and called for a “bonfire of the banalities”.

Announcements that are tipped to fall foul of Shapps’s cull include instructions to passengers to have their ticket ready when leaving the station, as well as public address calls to keep the volume down in designated quiet carriages. Limits for the frequency of announcements will also be set.

Shapps said: “Train passengers are all too often plagued by an endless torrent of repeated and unnecessary announcements.

“That’s why I’m calling for a bonfire of the banalities to bring down the number of announcements passengers are forced to sit through and make their journey that little bit more peaceful.”

The Department for Transport (DfT) said it would ensure passengers continue to receive important information, and officials making the changes would work with accessibility groups.

However, early indications are that some of the biggest bugbears will remain, if they are deemed to play a “safety critical role”.

That could include “See it. Say it. Sorted”, widely regarded as one of the most irritating announcements, but commissioned and launched by rail ministers in conjunction with British Transport Police in 2016.

The DfT said the move to control onboard announcements was part of the Williams-Shapps plan to improve the rail industry for passengers – although review chair Keith Williams also found that railways were bedevilled by government micromanagement.

Jacqueline Starr, of the Rail Delivery Group, representing operators, said: “We know people want the most relevant and timely messages on their journeys and to help with this, train operators are continuing their work to improve customer information, including cutting unnecessary onboard announcements.”

Labour said the move showed Shapps was out of touch with priorities.

Louise Haigh, shadow transport secretary, said: “Tannoys aren’t the only thing that have fallen silent – ministers have literally nothing to say about the Conservatives’ cost of living crisis facing passengers as they hike up rail fares this year.

“What hard-pressed passengers want to hear more than anything else is a plan to help them.”

Meanwhile the RMT union questioned the need for the review.

A spokesman said: “The last thing we get is passengers complaining they have too much information.

“You do need to be careful about assuming everyone’s heard it all before. We’d be deeply concerned if this was another ruse to remove staff from trains as part of the government’s wider cuts agenda.”

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